A Baby Shower for Ava

My sister (Melissa)  adopted two of my favorite children on the planet. We kinda won the lottery with those kiddos. Then she married a fella with two amazing kiddos of his own. Now they are expecting a baby girl on October 1 and plan to name her Ava. A party was in order. I was in town for the family beach trip and my brother's kiddos were visiting from Michigan. 

We started with a pre-party as part of the Childers family reunion - a gathering of my mom's side of the family. Lots of cards and a few gifts - and tons of well wishes and belly rubs. 

And my niece should learn that is she makes faces at me, I will blog them for everyone to see!

Then we headed to my mom's where me, my mother and two of Melissa's friends were throwing a drop in shower. My cousin Tracy (on my dad's side) made the cake and all the cupcakes. Oh, the patience. I hope this baby girl knows how loved she is - even before she makes her arrival.

We did most of the food set up in my mother's dining room. (I was photobombed by my brother's youngest - she needed to sample all the cheeses - just to be sure they were all good.)

That's better. Ready for a party.

There were lots of gifts with polka dots and strawberries - and more photobombing - this time by my brother's middle daughter. Everything needed to be oooohhhed and aaahhhhhhed over by the 4 year old. She was pretty excited to be meeting new people.

Is there anything cuter than tiny baby girl clothes? I don't think so.

It was supposed to a photo of the cake cutting,,, but again with the faces and the cheese "sampling".  My family is nothing if not predictable.

Oh, and that beautiful bassinet/ changing table/ beside sleeper was a gift from my mother  - that she decided I needed to assemble the night before - around midnight. It is cute, but I didn't think so the night before.

And another photobomb by the littlest one. 

Alright Ava - everyone is ready. We expect to see you in about 5 weeks because all those strawberry covered, pink polka-dotta baby girl clothes are ready for you. And all those cousins are waiting to teach you the joys of a cheese platter and a Yoohoo And all those brothers and sisters are ready to welcome you home and teach you how to be one of the club. And your grandparents are ready to spoil you rotten. And Dr. Aunt Misty is just ready to see you in your mother's arms.


Snoqualmie Falls

Just a quick shot of Snoqualmie Falls - east of Seattle.

Bellevue Botanical Garden

I struggled to sleep after the Nickel Creek concert - because I was just too hyped. But I managed. 
I woke up to a rare thunderstorm in the Seattle area. I had some hotel breakfast and read the morning paper while I tried to decide what to do with my day. I had reached out to a friend that relocated to the Seattle Tacoma area for some suggestions a few weeks before my trip. She made some great suggestions, but it turns out I was in Seattle on Seafair weekend - an air and boat event. Because the Blue Angels were performing as part of Seafair (twice on Saturday), the I-90 bridge from the east side (where the concert was and where I stayed for the night) was closed from 12-2 and 2-4. Even when it was not closed, traffic was a snarl. I had planned to go to the Ballard Locks, Alki beach and Mercer Island. After the traffic situation just getting to the concert, I decided to change my plans. 

If you know me at all, you can guess it involved plants. And a suggestion made by the nice people who sat next to me at the Nickel Creek concert. 

I ended up at the Bellevue Botanical Gardens - a free garden just SW of Kirkland where I had stayed. I love a good reminder that I am in the Pacific NW. The good parking at the garden was saved for people who are saving the planet. 

It was one of the best free botanical gardens I have been to. If you find yourself in the area - GO! As I arrived, the rain hit in full force with a downpour. It stopped after a few minutes and meant that I had the garden virtually to myself. I am amazed at the diversity that will grow in the PNW.

I love the contrast in textures produced by hostas. I think this was the moment I decided I will plant some on the east side of my house this fall. Beautiful contrast.

There were lots of different varieties of red hot poker. And they were putting on a show.

I want some of these as well. My neighbor has some and I am hoping to get some next time he divides.

One of my favorite things about the PNW is fuschia. I hated this plant when I was trying to grow it in baskets in the SE US because I felt like I was battling all kinds of disease and insects. Here, a diversity of fuschia is growing in border. There must have been 100 different varieties. There were even a few trained into trees.

My favorite is always a dissected Japanese maple. 

And I love moving water in a garden. All of the waterfalls were running fast because of the downpour that happened as I arrived. Amazing sounds. 

And the obligatory "this is me happy in a garden" selfie.


Nickel Creek

Nickel Creek played a show in Portland back in May but a prior commitment meant I missed them. They were still adding concert dates at that point and I knew if they played a show anywhere close to me, I was going to make the trek. Checking NickelCreek.com religiously, I saw a date added for August 1 - just outside Seattle. Done. I tried to find someone to make the trip with me, but no takers. Didn't matter. Solo road trip!

I wish I could start this post with an Amazing shot of the band... but, you must look at what I looked at for hours. I left with plenty of time to spare because I figured Friday afternoon traffic on I-5 Northbound was going to be bad. I would have to pass through Portland, Vancouver, Olympia, Tacoma and get to the NE side of Seattle by the 7pm start time. I underestimated. At one point, I went 4 miles in an hour. I did the math and with 5 hours before start time and more than 50 miles to go, if that pace continued, I would have sat in traffic for hours. It is not unheard of.

I made it. The concert was held at the amphitheater of the Chateau Ste. Michelle winery in Woodinville.

There were shuttles to a free parking area over a half mile away but I didn't like the idea of walking back to my car afterwards in the dark without a friend... so I paid to park next to the venue. (This proved to be a very smart decision as I left - There were tons of guys directing traffic out of the venue and I never even had to slow down.)

And lest you should worry, there is an actually Chateau on the property. Anything not connected with the concert closed at 5, but it would be a cool place to visit on a non-concert day. The property was beautifully landscaped (says the plant geek). 

This venue allows you to bring just about anything inside the venue: picnics, chairs, blankets - everything except outside alcohol. But its a winery so they would sell you wine by the bottle.

I walked around a little to get the lay of the land - and because my seat is one of those green one's right in front of the stage that are cooking in the sun about now. This pasty white girl waited in the shade! Lawn seats were first come, first served so they had to save their space. I chilled in the shade or inside the "reserved seats only" indoor shopping area until about 5 minutes before the opening act hit the stage. The sun was setting into the trees behind the venue so it wouldn't be long. 

The opening act for this stop: The Secret Sisters. They are from Alabama and were entertaining. I especially enjoyed the Southern accents. Makes a girl feel at home.

And then the stage was reset for Nickel Creek. If you know the band, you know where they will be singing from the mic setups. They are clearly different heights. 

The band took a hiatus after the 2007 "Farewell for Now" tour and I would say I followed Sara Watkins' career the most. Her "In the Sun" album is great. I like the band for the musical interplay between Chris Thile's mandolin, Sean Watkins' sweet guitar and Sara's violin. And each of them take turns singing lead. Damn - I had good seats! Can you believe this seat was only $55?

They were worth not only the ticket price, but also the 12 hours of driving... and the hotel room... And the nail in my tire and the subsequent hour wait at Les Schwab Tire Center... and working on Sunday because I missed Friday... and waiting an extra 2 months to see them They played a full two hours. I left with a perma-grin plastered to my face and I couldn't sleep! I am just so happy they are making music together again. 

And just because I have friends that would want to know, the setlist was something like this:

Rest of My Life 
Scotch & Chocolate 
Smoothie Song 
Reasons Why 
21st of May 
When In Rome 
Tomorrow Is a Long Time 
Ode to a Butterfly (or what Thile deemed "Ode to an Upside Down Tree" after he spotted a weeping evergreen from the stage)
Jealous of the Moon 
You Don't Know What's Going On 
Somebody More Like You 
The Lighthouse's Tale 
Elephant in the Corn 
The Ledge (a Fleetwood Mac song)
When You Come Back Down 
The Fox 


First and Last Waltz 
Cuckoo's Nest 
Where Is Love Now 


More shots from Yellowstone

It has been a month since I was there, but I still have some great photos to share. Enjoy.



Still daydreaming of my time in Vegas and the free therapy that comes from good friends.

I missed Utah

I don't miss Utah, but in the hustle of OSU's spring term, conference season and the summer rush, I missed posting about it here. I was there for the annual national conference of the American Association of Agricultural Educators (AAAE). We move the conference around the regions. Last year it was in Columbus, OH and next year it is in San Antonio, TX. The conference was fairly typical as academic conferences go. Research presentations. Research posters. Committee meetings. Luncheons. Speakers. Business meetings.

Utah, however, offered some amazing views. I flew into Utah directly from the wedding in Jamaica. That was an adjustment.

I woke up to this:

And went to bed next to this:

They did get us lift tickets - not to ski. We just rode up ...and back down the mountain to take the views.

The view was amazing - and once I could feel my legs again, totally worth it. 
Have I mentioned I am terrified of heights? 

We were able to choose our afternoon tour and instead of heading to downtown Salt Lake, I chose to head over to Park City. Our first stop was the Olympic Park. 

This area was used for many of the events when Salt Lake hosted the winter Olympic games. Now, it is a sprawling complex of training facilities. 

And, when there is no snow in Utah, you downhill ski into a swimming pool. Yup. A pool.

After our tour of Olympic park, we were able to tool around downtown Park City for while.

We found an eclectic place to eat a burger and have a beer. I say eclectic in case you couldn't tell by the Bison head and the random photo of a blonde woman behind my friend Jon.

And then there was this Moose in boots and cowboy hat - Why not?